House Passes Controversial Cybersecurity Bill CISPA


Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI)Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI)




The controversial national cybersecurity bill known as CISPA was passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday night, a full day ahead of when the vote was expected and despite the fact that it had received enormous criticism from Web user rights advocacy groups and the White House itself, which threatened to veto the bill a day earlier.

The full vote in favor of CISPA, which stands for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, was 248-168 along bipartisan lines.

“It was a great show of bipartisan support,” a House staffer who worked drafting the bill told TPM in a phone interview.

The cybersecurity bill, introduced by sponsors Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-MD) in November 2011, is designed to allow intelligence agencies such as the NSA or the CIA to share information on national cybersecurity threats with private companies such as Facebook, and vice versa.

The legislation had been heavily criticized by the Obama Administration and advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union for lacking adequate protection for Web user information and legal recourse of user information was shared.

CISPA’s passage came after House members spent most of Thursday afternoon debating and voting upon upon a series of amendments to the bill that various House members introduced in an effort to appease critics and the administration.

Only a few of those amendments ended up passing, including one that restricts the use of cybersecurity information shared under CISPA to only cybersecurity matters, and another that would prohibit the government from using personal records information such as medical records, library checkouts or firearm sales records, that were shared under CISPA.

“We think that the concerns of the White House and advocacy groups were addressed in the final version that passed,” a House staffer told TPM.

But the ACLU disagreed.

“CISPA goes too far for little reason,” said Michelle Richardson, ACLU legislative counsel, in a statement emailed to reporters. “Cybersecurity does not have to mean abdication of Americans’ online privacy. As we’ve seen repeatedly, once the government gets expansive national security authorities, there’s no going back. We encourage the Senate to let this horrible bill fade into obscurity.”

Still, CISPA has a ways to go before it becomes law: First through the Senate, which has to introduce it or combine it with other cybersecurity bills presently under consideration, vote upon it, and then, if passed, it will go to the President, who hasn’t yet dropped his threatened veto.

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